Citywide vote irks growth backers

One of five Modesto growth measures on the Nov. 3 ballot should not be at the mercy of a citywide vote, some supporters say.

With two weeks of campaigning left, a Measure B cheerleader says College West envisions no homes and already has a sewer trunk — both major requirements for the city law that compels builders to ask all Modesto voters to weigh in on eventual development.

"We're jobs — 100 percent jobs," said John Eichel.

The dozen or so owners of 230 acres in the planning area weren't aware that urging Modesto leaders to annex College West meant a citywide advisory vote, Eichel said. When they did realize it, they didn't fight it because "we wanted to be properly embraced by the city of Modesto," Eichel said.

Of the five areas on the ballot, only supporters of Measure E, with the largest residential component, are actively campaigning. Eichel said his Measure B group will produce literature in coming days.

His group wasn't savvy enough to produce a ballot argument, he said. A formal argument against Measure B, by members of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association, unfairly lumps it with the four others, Eichel said, by citing sewer extensions and "houses for commuters."

"They're absolutely wrong," Eichel said.

Brent Sinclair, the city's community development director, was surprised Monday to hear Measure B's complaint. It belongs on the ballot, Sinclair said, because the 51-inch- diameter sewer trunk passes through a relatively small point in College West and would require major line extensions to develop the rest of the area.

Eichel said Sinclair's staff demanded a citywide vote because City Hall can't be sure landowners will stick to their no-house promise. Eichel, after all, subdivided his 55 acres, now bearing almond trees, into four lots a few years ago.

But Eichel said his lot lines conformed to the city's demands for business park potential. City leaders designated College West as a future business park 30 years ago, consultant Dennis Wilson said.

The Modesto Chamber of Commerce supports Measure B as an "in-fill project already anticipated as a job creator." Eichel said College West would not break ground for about five years but eventually could produce 6,500 jobs.

Critics, armed with studies and ridicule for the Briggsmore-Carpenter overpass, ask how anyone could suggest adding more traffic to what the League of Women Voters recently called "a transportation nightmare."

Eichel and Wilson say a Highway 99 frontage road called Brink Road should be extended north to Beckwith Road, tying into the Beckwith-Standiford Avenue interchange instead of veering west at North Avenue.

"Big employers want to be close to the freeway," Eichel said. "They want exposure."

Wilson said traffic snarls could be lessened by having business park employees work staggered schedules.

Added to the other measures, Modesto voters will weigh in on potential development of nearly 3,000 acres on the city's fringe — the largest combined areas in 30 years of advisory growth measures.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or 578-2390.

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